Middle Is Near

We prefer items in the middle of a range:

When participants were presented with a line of five pictures, they preferred pictures in the centre rather than at either end. This applies when the line of pictures was arranged horizontally or vertically and when participants selected from five pairs of identical socks arranged vertically. The results support the centre-stage explanation of location-based preference rather than the hemispheric difference or body-specific accounts. (more)

We attend less to abstract goals for middle items, suggesting we see them more in near mode:

People are more likely to adhere to their standards at the beginning and end of goal pursuit—and slack in the middle. We demonstrate this pattern of judgment and behavior in adherence to ethical standards (e.g., cheating), religious traditions (e.g., skipping religious rituals), and performance standards (e.g., “cutting corners” on a task). We also show that the motivation to adhere to standards by using proper means is independent and follows a different pattern from the motivation to reach the end state of goal pursuit. (more)

This all fits with our preferring to act in near mode:

Not only are we designed to talk a good idealistic talk from afar while taking selfish practical actions up close, we also seem to be designed to direct our less visible actions into contexts where our near minds rule, and direct grand idealistic talk to contexts where our far minds do the talking. We talk an idealistic talk, but walk a practical walk, and try to avoid walking our talk or talking our walk. (more)

So folks who think of their era as the “end of history” or the “start of the future” are more likely to see it in far mode. To get yourself to think more in near mode, for better analysis, try to see the object of your attention as in the middle of a range of possibilities. Of course if you instead want to be more creative about your topic, think of it as an extreme.

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